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Genetic diver­sity of Andean bears in North Amer­i­can Zoos increased

pub­lished 16 Novem­ber 2013 | mod­i­fied 03 Novem­ber 2014

The Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Soci­ety (WCS)‘s Queens Zoo is home to a new Andean or spec­ta­cled bear (Tremarc­tos orna­tus), the only bear species endemic to South America.

Andean bear Queens ZooThe Andean bear is native to Andean low­lands in Venezuela, Colom­bia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina. The species is also known as the spec­ta­cled bear because some indi­vid­u­als have white mark­ings around their eyes that resem­ble eye­glasses. Their pop­u­la­tions in the wild are declin­ing due to habi­tat loss and hunt­ing. The species is clas­si­fied as Vul­ner­a­ble by the Inter­na­tional Union of Con­ser­va­tion of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threat­ened Species.

He [Bouba] rep­re­sents an impor­tant addi­tion to the Andean bear breed­ing pro­gram among zoos in the United States
Scott Sil­ver, Ani­mal Cura­tor and Direc­tor, Queens Zoo »

The new bear, Bouba, is a two-​year-​old male that came to Queens from a zoo in France, Bioparc de Dou-​la-​Fontaine. He shares a habi­tat with a female Andean bear named Spangles.

“Bouba’s energy will make him a star,” said Scott Sil­ver, Ani­mal Cura­tor and Direc­tor of the Queens Zoo. “He rep­re­sents an impor­tant addi­tion to the Andean bear breed­ing pro­gram among zoos in the United States.” Bouba weighs approx­i­mately 100 kilo­grams and could weigh up to 160 kg as an adult. He adds con­sid­er­ably to the genetic diver­sity of Andean bears in North Amer­i­can zoos, because he is totally unre­lated to the exist­ing pop­u­la­tion of zoo bears in the US.

Footage of Bouba and Span­gles as pro­vided by WCS:

Scott Sil­ver is the Species Sur­vival Plan (SSP) Coor­di­na­tor for Andean bears for the Asso­ci­a­tion of Zoos and Aquar­i­ums (AZA). The SSP is a coop­er­a­tive breed­ing pro­gram designed to enhance the genetic via­bil­ity and demo­graphic sta­bil­ity of ani­mal pop­u­la­tions in zoos accred­ited by the AZA. There are cur­rently 55 Andean bears in 26 accred­ited zoos.

WCS con­ducts research on Andean bears across Latin Amer­ica, from Ecuador to Venezuela. Through­out these coun­tries, WCS aims to develop local capac­ity to con­serve the habi­tat of the Andean bear and mit­i­gate a vari­ety of threats to them, includ­ing human-​wildlife con­flict and habi­tat destruc­tion for agriculture.

(Source: WCS press release, 14.11.2013)

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